|Source: My photograph at Labour Party conference|
The Labour Party has extended its lead to 3% in my last poll of polls before the new year. Labour finishes the year on 35%, its highest score yet in my polling average. Overall, Labour are up 2 points to 35%, whilst the Conservatives are also up by a single point to 32%. The Lib Dems and Green Party are each down by a single point, and UKIP remain at their lowest ebb of 15% in my polls.
The only question is, is the UKIP decline permanent? It is extremely difficult to determine whether UKIP's decline is going to be permanent, or just a temporary decline caused by the Neil Hamilton scandal. Both Labour and the Tories will, however, be relatively happy going into the new year. The election is 5 months from now, and the outcome is still uncertain. Labour will be delighted to have a 3% lead, a lead which could give them a working majority, or, in the event of the Scottish disaster for Labour that most are predicting, a favourable hung parliament. The Tories will not be too unhappy, as they will have memories of the 1992 election, when they turned over a significant Labour lead and won the election. UKIP will probably be the most happy, and the party needs to stay out of the (Negative) media spotlight for some time if it is to recover.
The position of both main political parties will become much clearer in the New Year, when Lord Ashcroft releases Scotland constituency polling, detailing the extent to which Labour may have been damaged in its Scottish citadels.
In my view, since both parties look so incredibly unlikely to win a majority, the election will be won and lost in Scotland. Significant losses for Labour North of the border increases the chances of David Cameron remaining prime minister.
John Curtice has some interesting polling evidence about that here. Whilst the entire article is worth reading, one particular part stands out to me.
".....what they do suggest is that there is no reason to believe that the swing to the SNP does not extend to what are supposedly the safest Labour seats in Scotland. If anything, the swing appears to be even greater in such seats. In seats where Labour is defending a majority of more than 25 points the swing in the poll from Labour to the SNP since 2010 is 24 points, rather higher than the 19.5 point swing for Scotland as a whole.Time is running out for the Labour Party in Scotland to persuade people that they are still worth voting for. If they cannot do it, then Labour's future, not just in Scotland but across the UK, is bleak. The party can be cheered by the fact that it is doing significantly better in England than in Scotland, and the majority of marginal seats are in England, but, even so, the loss of nearly all of "Fortress Scotland" would have serious implications for Labour and the other unionist parties in the future.